Cough in Ferrets

By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 4, 2010

Coughing is fairly common among ferrets, or at least as much as it is in other animals. Formally defined as forceful exhalations of air through the glottis or mouth and throat, a cough may be brought on by a variety of factors, either automatic or inspired.

Symptoms and Types

  • Sneezing
  • Scratchy and/or irritable esophagus
  • Clearing of breathing passage (sometimes with mucous or blood, which may indicate a coexisting condition that requires immediate attention)


The causes for cough in ferrets are varied. Often, upper respiratory tract disorders or viral infections such as the flu are to blame. Other causes may include:

  • Sinusitis
  • Rhinitis
  • Inflammation of the tracheal pipe
  • Infections of the ear, nose, and throat
  • Pulmonary swelling, tumors, or pneumonia
  • Environmental factors (i.e., unhygienic conditions that can contribute to nasal and oral irritation)


Your veterinarian will first want to rule out other serious conditions to help prevent a resurgence of a more virulent strain of disease following minor treatment. To achieve this, he or she will look for other diagnostic features, including the prolonged health of the animal, its nocturnal or sleeping habits, and the patterns and characteristic of behavior -- all of which may provide some clues as to the causes of the ferret’s primary symptoms.

Diagnostic exams such as X-rays and ultrasounds can also help identify cardiovascular disease(s) or disorders of the nasal, sinus, and lower respiratory tract.


Your veterinarian will typically only attempt to treat the underlying condition, especially when it is severe. Often he or she will recommend restricting the ferret's exercises, as it may aggravate the animal's condition.

Living and Management

You will need to stay in communication with your veterinarian throughout the treatment period, relaying information about your ferret's response to the treatment and whether it is improving or worsening. You may also need to take your ferret back to the clinic for follow-up examinations so that your veterinarian can evaluate your dog's disease status and treatment progress. There, the treatment will be adjusted accordingly. In some ferrets, long-term therapy is required for a complete recovery.

Take care when administering drugs to your ferret, as any drug, including cough suppressants, can be dangerous when given in the wrong amount.

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